Simply Golden

by Norman Rockwell, 1961

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

Luke 6:31, ESV — The Golden Rule

 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that.” 

Luke 6:31-32, MSG

Sometimes it seems, I hit the switch, and shut it all down. Essentially, I get wrapped up with one of my favorite sins and soon I turn off my faith, unplugging myself from the wall.  I have a desire to escape from what I see as restrictions that I believe faith brings me.  I want to have fun–I don’t want to pray, or read the Bible.

Actually I can do this subtly.  I just raise the volume of my sinful desires, and try to drown out that still small voice.  I can maintain a holy life for my Christian friends, while I enjoy the pleasures of my favorite sins.  Sins or holiness, I want to go for both– but the reality is I just get one.

There is still a voice that is speaking profoundly. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”  Our particular concepts of Christianity so rarely include this–“the golden rule.”  In my own mind, I diminish this as a little bit antiquated.  I will rarely feel its pinch or pull.  It is never a topic of serious thought or meditation.  It seems that it has become what I call–“an optional truth.”  It is very much real, but it is not connected to me in my daily walk.

Treating others, the very way you want to be treated—do this!  Love other people outrageously and deeply; because you like it when they do this to you.  There is reciprocal action here, a sort of spiritual circle of kindness.  Our vernacular says, “What goes around, comes around.”  And it certainly has a ring of truth in it.

All too often we have a version of Christianity that has had its teeth pulled. We have tamed it, and brought the sharp teeth of the faith under our personal decision-making process.  The wildness of a true faith is domesticated and ‘house-broken.’  And we start the rush to unplug things.  The golden rule gets detached right away.

As I struggle as a mentally ill Christian, it is mandatory that the truth be lifted up in my life.  I can become quite disturbed and manipulated by life’s dealings.  My issues of paranoia and delusion cripple me, or they could become the step-stool for those wonderous things on the shelf of grace.

Dear ones, use your illness to reach for the best, live this and change your world.

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Dying is Part of Living

Photo by Diane Loft
Photo by Diane Loft

“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”

Romans 6:6, NLT

“There are two things which the Church needs: more death and more life— more death in order to live; more life in order to die.”

C.A. Fox

The need of this moment is critical. Many believers have never came to this point of ‘knowing.’ Maturity comes when one realizes that crucifixion has dealt with the old man. We died when He died, we were there when He died, we were part of that event. Romans 6 is all about a believers ‘co-crucifixion’ with Jesus Christ. Calvary was far more than a religious event— it was where our sin was terminated. It was more than just a penalty carried— it was where our old nature put to death.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20

Sin has no power to sway a dead man. A man who is dead doesn’t respond to a girl in a leopard skin bikini. (It doesn’t matter if she is insanely gorgeous.) He no longer can be tempted to sin. Why?  Because he is dead. This is not an issue of semantics, it is not poetic interpretation of a metaphor. It rings true in heaven.

Sin should no longer remain in power of a believer’s life. We believe that our sins have been dealt with on the cross, that Jesus took our sins from us, bearing them as a ‘sacrificial lamb.’ But the same is true to say, “My sinful nature was also crucified with him.”

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”

John 12:24

The principle is from farming. A kernel of wheat will bring an abundance. But it must be buried first. The dead seed miraculously sprouts. At the moment of death it suddenly receives a new life. The dead seed grows into a bountiful harvest. This is the New Testament principle of dying to self. A few things:

  • we are not sinless— we must deal daily with the sinful part of us,
  • this must be taken by faith, much like anything else from God,
  • discipline aids our quest for holiness, 1 Tim. 4:8
  • fulfills the sacrament of water baptism, it’s a daily reckoning, Rom. 6:4,
  • temptations can be really strong, but He enables us,
  • this is a God honoring way to live.

Crucifixion should always be taken by faith in God’s Word and it will lead to resurrection. Crucifixion weakness is necessary for resurrection power. Jesus shares his life with us— his power is given to his people. He shares all that he is so we might become like him.

“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”

Romans 6:12-13

I’m convinced that as people with issues: physical and mental, we are given a gracious teacher in the person of the Holy Spirit. He will never condemn our feeble efforts to be holy. Be encouraged: God makes the weakest of us strong.

 

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Cities Without Walls

“A man without self-control
    is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

Proverbs 25:28

The writer of Proverbs can be blunt. He makes the cold observation that people can often be like a city that has no walls.

The city he alluded to was completely defenseless, vulnerable and wide open to a marauding enemy. It no longer is protected. It can be assaulted from outside and is no longer safe. It can be easily defeated by its foes.

The description is used to describe a spiritual condition of danger and defeat. A real potentiality exists of a helpless invasion by evil forces. It has no protection to speak of.

Proverbs uses this imagery to state a fundamental truth about some people.

We live in an age when everything is “open.” Seldom do we see protecting walls around the perimeter of our lives. We are open to the demonic forces of darkness. We move from crisis to crisis because we are not protected.

Nehemiah faced the stark reality of Jerusalem without walls of protection. His first order of business (before anything else) was to rebuild them. He mobilized work crews that immediately went to work restoring the cities safety.

“I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah 2:13

He knew what he was up against; a discouraged people who were extremely vulnerable. It’s also interesting that the cities enemies resisted at this crucial time. They wanted the people to fail so  they would continue to defeat them.

Our culture today is no longer protected by the evil of the day. We’re victims for the most part by Satan’s tactical assaults. A generation has come and gone that has not known the defense of personal walls.

We are desperate of the ministry of Nehemiah. He is a type of Christ. Protection can only come from faith and blood of Jesus. He alone is our safe place. He alone can defend us from this present darkness.

If your life is characterized by oppression I urge you to erect a safe place for yourself and for your family. Being specific in prayer is very often your sheltered place. Take a stand and drive the enemy away. Resist him and he will flee from you.

“The world’s battlefields have been in the heart chiefly; more heroism has been displayed in the household and the closet, than on the most memorable battlefields in history.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

To Be, Rather Than Seem to Be

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“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Genesis 3:6-7

The broken believer survives because he or she is constantly having to move toward “authenticity.” There exists a credibility and a realness about them. Talking you’ll suddenly realize that you’re talking with someone who is real. They’ve stepped out of the wreckage and have survived their personal catastrophes. This doesn’t come easy; it is a rarity and a gift.

On the other hand, we see those wrapped up in so much self-imposed deception that can’t admit anything is wrong. Like the problem drinker who denies he has a problem, we can’t handle the reality and drink to alter it. The addicted are compelled to live a delusion of their own choices, (for the most part anyway) and discover they are hopelessly trapped. And so we hide under our favorite bush. (Euphoria was my favorite.)

“When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

Genesis 3:8

It really is a matter of esse quam videri (“to be rather than seem to be”– Saint Gregory.) We would rather be “seeming to be” than actually just “be.” The sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve are still using “fig leaves.” We don’t want to deal with the truth about ourselves and face the sin of our lives. But it seems to be more than that.

The struggler and the broken believer may try to conceal themselves. They may hold up an image that deflects the curious onlooker from seeing the real them. We won’t deal with the truth, and we choose to hide ourselves. We want to be seen as “together” even if we are not. It is all about looking good. This is pretense and sham. We dodge and deflect.

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

John 3:19

 This was Jesus’ indictment of the human heart. I wish it was otherwise.

Each day I must put to death my old self. Take my meds, and ask the Lord for strength to become real. No more pretense, and no more projecting a false self to others (and myself.) I choose reality over fantasy.

The Holy Spirit is eagerly waiting to fill me. In this I discover I can live well with the strength and joy He gives me.

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“The God who can change a sinner into a Christian by giving him His life can equally transform the fleshly Christian into a spiritual one by giving him His life more abundantly.”

—Watchman Nee

“Lord Jesus, may it be that the real me meets the real you. Make me real and authentic. Amen.”

 

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Understanding Self-Destruction

“For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the Lord.
But those who miss me injure themselves.
All who hate me love death.”  

Proverbs 8:35-36

“There are seeds of self-destruction in all of us that will bear only unhappiness if allowed to grow.”  Dorothea Brande

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“When the beginnings of self-destruction enter the heart it seems no bigger than a grain of sand.”   John W. Cheever
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“If one looks with a cold eye at the mess man has made of history, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he has been afflicted by some built-in mental disorder which drives him towards self-destruction.”   Arthur Koestler 

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 Among people with a mental illness, there is a sort of impulsivity, and in advanced cases we can see a ‘self-destructive behavior‘.  We do things, superficially we recognize and even assert that it is detrimental, but we will continue to do it regardless.  Those ‘in the know around us’ can’t believe what we are doing. It is totally irrational.

Bipolar, schizophrenia, and many other mental illnesses have impulsivity as a common aspect of their disease processes.

  • We drink,
  • do drugs,
  • do pornography, strippers
  • tattoo ourselves,
  • cut ourselves,
  • misuse our credit cards (and go deeply in debt)
  • get crazy at rock concerts,
  • and much more.

We are impulsive and we do things that a healthy person would never do.  We consistently choose the worst things and we can’t seem to stop ourselves.

We are the ‘wild childs’, we just seem to thrive on the edge of destruction, repeatedly.  This is in spite of the consequences.  We just don’t worry about the side-effects of our choices.  We don’t think ahead, all we think is of the moment.  We consistently choose what is really bad for us, and then throw ourselves headlong into the darkness.  We can’t seem to stop.  The more we do these terrible things, the wilder it seems to get.

I can say this because I have a personal issue with ‘self-destruction’.  You might say I have a ‘Masters degree’ in it.  I have gotten very proficient at it, and have utilized deception to cover my tracks.  So much of my life is hidden and I seem to float my darkness out in such a way as to diffuse questions and to excuse awful nasty behavior.

Being impulsive/self-destructive is a hard life in many ways.  We cultivate an image to others that we have really never attained.  We are very good at deception, we have discovered how to do and say what we want without others “getting in our faces.”  A great deal of trickery is sent out over those in ‘the know’.  Being impulsive, ready to step into the most pleasurable darkness, becomes something we must cover up, at all costs. But Proverbs 6:27 tells us,

“Can a man scoop a flame into his lap
    and not have his clothes catch on fire?”

Am I secretly drinking, doing drugs or using sex (esp. in pornography)?  The impulses that drive us to do this stuff will become the way we experience destruction, but somehow we don’t seem to get it.  The mentally ill have a horrendous rate of alcoholism and addiction.  I’ve seen figures that put us at 80% that have significant issues.  We seem to be ‘self-medicating’ ourselves to escape, or trying to get some stability.

When we come to Jesus, we discover that He loves us completely, including our ‘hidden side’.  His love comes to us without any conditions.  We are free to do whatever we want.  However, we will find that ‘sin accepted’ is very brutal to us.  Smashing out heads against a brick wall, over and over, doesn’t make the wall any softer.  And yet we continue to do the most foolish thing we can do, and then we–  REPEAT.

There is a way out of this.  But few will try doing it.  Its called ‘public confession’.  We take it all ‘airborne’.  We get it out into the open, where the sun shines.  We choose not to live out our lives in secretiveness. We must learn the skills of transparency, as we lay out our evil, our deception for the church to see. When we deceive others, we will end up deceiving ourselves.  We absolutely cannot continue a life in darkness, or in long-term sin.

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ybic, Bryan

 

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Dismayed by My Own Fallenness

“As the Scriptures say,

“No one is righteous—
    not even one.
11 No one is truly wise;
    no one is seeking God.
12 All have turned away;
    all have become useless.
No one does good,
    not a single one.”

Romans 3:10-12

Scripture never, ever flatters the human ego.  It acts on us directly, “dividing the spirit from the soul.”  I find no glowing review of our “noble” humanity. The opposite is true.

At our deepest core, the Bible teaches that we are depraved—separated from truth and goodness.  In theology this is called, “original sin.”  (I don’t think there is really anything original about it.) There is also a concept called “contrition.”   It means, “having sorrow or sadness over sin involving making steps to amend your ways.”  Notice the definition instills a sense of action.  Perhaps the idea of penitence need a new emphasis?

Does your discipleship include the reality of you?

There are broad, generalized teachings that are woven into the Word— the iniquity and fallenness of men.  It consistently talks a seemless truth, without fail. ( That’s one of the reasons why I know the Bible is true.)  Yet the Father has made provision for our falseness and weakness, he sweeps nothing under a cosmic rug.  You might say the Scripture completely understands us, as us.  Our illusions and deceptions, blatant or subtle, do not confuse or mislead him.

Our discipleship must be “walked out” in brokenness. That is the only way it will work.

We have absolutely nothing to boast about.  I cannot point to this blog— or having been a missionary, a teacher and a pastor as my “good things.”  Today, I sat and became very aware of my inner wickedness. But because He directly intervenes in my life, I will not die in my sins like I deserve.

I am sad.  You see, I am fallen, a complete failure.  It’s easier to find water in the Sahara Desert than to find goodness in my heart.  As a matter of fact, I’ve taken evil to a new level.  I excel, and then I keep practicing it trying to squeeze out more and more power— pride— pleasure.

Those who mourn their contagiously evil hearts (Matthew 5:3-4) are the ones who God can comfort.  Our sadness over our sin (and the sin of the world)—is evidence of the Spirit’s action over our depravity. Look for it, and rest in the Spirit’s work.

“Original sin is in us, like the beard. We are shaved today and look clean, and have a smooth chin; tomorrow our beard has grown again, nor does it cease growing while we remain on earth. In like manner original sin cannot be extirpated [completely destroyed]  from us; it springs up in us as long as we live. Nevertheless we are bound to resist it to our utmost strength, and to cut it down unceasingly.” 

 ~Martin Luther

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Chasing Down Euphoria

“That’s the difference between me and the rest of the world! Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand euphoria!” 

Calvin & Hobbes, comic strip

One of the blessings of turning 55 is I come to a place where I can sit and think about my life. I’m intrigued by how it unfolded the way that it did.  I know I can be a bit of an eccentric. But that’s ok. When the warm ocean current of depression and the cold water current of weird personality meet it will  get very tumultuous.  And being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder brings even more issues. But I do admit– I have lived life hard. (Perhaps harder then it had to be.)

I do have a ‘dark side.’ One of the most disturbing areas I had was an almost insatiable thirst for ‘euphoria.’  Both drugs and alcohol, I discovered would put me in the place of exhilaration and elation.  And I longed for anything that would put me in this mental state.  If you had come to me with two hits of ‘acid,’ I would definitely take them both, and not even blink. That has changed since I accepted Christ. The impulses are tamed by God’s Spirit and Word. (Thank God!)

My quest for euphoria has taken me down some strange paths.  I learned to buy those drugs that would work that special bliss into my being.  But I couldn’t maintain euphoria.  I chased after that idea, without ever achieving it.  LSD, PCP, marijuana, whiskey, cocaine, and  even ‘needles’— all those old standbys have brought me to a false sense of inner freedom.  I tried to stay ‘stoned’ as long as I could. I drank enough vodka to float a battleship.  I was a maniac. Completely out-of-control.

“You will be bruised all over, without even remembering how it all happened. And you will lie awake asking,  “When will morning come, so I can drink some more?” 

Proverbs 23:35, CEV

depressedcomputerThe man who penned this must have knew the back side of getting hammered.  There is a lot of pain in this lifestyle, and not just hangovers and depression. Yet we can’t wait until we can start it all over again.  This love for the high is the precursor to addiction.  Crossing this line is a moment of strange logic for the user, but in reality,  it is a form of mental illness and insanity.

My addictions (which imprinted an ‘addictive personality’) are seldom reasonable.  As I pursue the euphoria (I love to get “high!”) my own ravenous appetite begins to feed off my own personality.  When a dam breaks, it starts at a tiny leak. This can take several years.  But the pressure will slowly continue and then it begins to escalate.  Soon the water pushes through until the dam breaks.  Floods ensue as the lake flows through.  Disaster is just that close.

“You say to each other,  “Let’s drink till we’re drunk!  Tomorrow we’ll do it again.  We’ll really enjoy ourselves.” 

Isa. 56:12, CEV

When we pursue, and then try to purchase our euphoria, we will inevitably end up as drunks and as addicts.  When fixed on the pursuit of carnal pleasure, we end up destroying ourselves, and the lives of those closest to us. When I start hurting others by my actions, I must consider I may have a big problem. Maturity is in part, understanding our desperateness, and then moving beyond it.  But the reality is that we are scarred, and that we continue to escape by “the skin of our teeth” until we die or get sober. Only Christ can save the euphoria-chaser.

Sometimes I’m a piece of work, it’s alright though because I’m His piece of work.

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